NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Update 6/10/11: Governor Kasich signs HB 121.
Update 6/1/11: HB 121 passes the Ohio Senate, goes to Governor Kasich for his signature. An emergency clause has been attached to the bill, so instead of waiting 90 days for it to become law, it will take effect immediately after it is signed.
Update 5/10/11: HB 121 passes the Ohio House of Representatives.
Update 4/13/11: HB 121 passes Ohio House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Fathers and Families of Ohio supports HB 121, a bill to protect military parents' child custody rights. HB 121, sponsored by Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), is modeled in part on AB 2416, which we helped pass in California last year.
F & F of Ohio Executive Committee Chairman Donald C. Hubin laid out the case for HB 121 in the Columbus Dispatch -- see his op-ed column Custody agreements should survive deployments (4/6/11).
In the Dispatch, Hubin, who is also the Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Ohio State University, writes:
...servicemembers return from serving to find that while they once had a custody arrangement that allowed them to play a meaningful role in their children's lives, the new custody arrangement allows them only a marginal role. To regain their previous custody arrangement, they must engage in costly, time-consuming litigation, which increases conflict and dissipates much of the time and money that they would otherwise be spending on their children...
The bill would create a rebuttable presumption that when a military parent is deployed, upon his or her return, child custody and visitation orders revert to the original order. This protects the crucial role these parents play in their children's lives and helps prevent a military parent from having to re-litigate the case. By reducing unnecessary re-litigation, House Bill 121 eases Ohio's already overburdened family-law court calendars, leading to savings for the state.
In the past, family courts were allowed to consider active military service as a change in circumstances that allows modifications of custody decrees. House Bill 121 would prohibit this.
The bill also would instruct courts to "stay any proceeding pertaining to the allocation or modification of parental rights and responsibilities if a parent who is the subject of the allocation or modification proceeding is unavailable due to active military service." It also directs courts to allow deployed parents to participate and present evidence in any family court proceeding via the internet, video and/or telephone.
More than three dozen states have now passed military-parent child-custody legislation since 2005, including Ohio's House Bill 119 in 2007. Yet current Ohio law fails to address four of the seven commonly identified problems deployed servicemembers face.
No mother or father should ever be disadvantaged in a child-custody or family-court proceeding because he or she serves in the military. With America fighting two wars and the divorce rate among military families running high, Ohio's service members need House Bill 121. And we owe them nothing less.
Read Hubin's full piece here.
"There was an argument about cheating, that his stepfather was cheating on his mother,' Ms. Ryan said. On the short ride from their apartment in Newburgh to the boat ramp, La"Shaun told Ms. Ryan, his mother had called an older relative and said, "I"m sorry, I"m going to do something crazy, you have to forgive me...' She said he told her that Ms. Armstrong had grabbed the children as the minivan rolled into the water and said, "If I"m going to die, you"re going to die with me.' She said that La"Shaun broke free, rolled down the window and swam out. He also told her that his mother tried to stop the tragedy that was playing out, but it was too late. He said that as the minivan began sinking Ms. Armstrong said, "Oh, my God, I made a mistake, I made a mistake.' He said she tried to shift into reverse. But the minivan was too far into the water to go back.Slowly the pieces of the puzzle are being gathered and put in place. In this article, various friends, relatives and neighbors are quoted (New York Times, 4/13/11). From their bits of information, we can learn that the three youngest of Armstrong's children - the three who are dead - were fathered by a man named Jean Pierre, 26. Who La'Shaun's father is has not yet been reported. Pierre is described variously as a hands-on dad who was frequently seen around the house although he and Armstrong didn't live together. He has no history of criminal behavior and none of domestic violence. Pierre and Armstrong were often seen by neighbors doing family activities together. Those included cooking out on the barbecue grill, going shopping and doing laundry together. Still, there was conflict in the family. Just what that was about remains unclear, but it's been reported that Pierre had at least one romantic affair outside his relationship with Armstrong. As Armstrong headed toward the river with the children, the older relative she had called alerted police who went to the house only to find it vacant. They've questioned Pierre and released him without charges. One suggestive fact is that Armstrong had asked the landlord to change the locks twice in the previous year for the purpose of keeping Mr. Pierre out of the apartment. Why would she do that if there was no history of domestic violence on his part and the police had no record of any disturbance there? There could of course be many reasons. But a woman who kills herself and three of her children apparently because of the father's relationship with another woman is one thing. A woman who enlists the aid of the landlord to keep him out of her and the children's lives is another. And a woman who gives neighbors every indication of conducting regular family life with the same man is yet another. How can we explain all that? Based on what little we have to go on, I'd say it looks like a couple with kids who tried to make a go of it, but, for whatever reasons, ultimately failed. Having failed, the man moved on to other relationships but still wanted to play an active part in his kids' lives. The mother then moved to marginalize him as their father and, when he persisted, took the ultimate step. If that's how it played out, it would be a lot like the Riggi case in Scotland. As I say, I have little factual information to go on, but that's the narrative I'd offer based on what there is. We'll see. And, speaking of insufficient information, the linked-to article is a fairly long one. The reporter quotes eight different people including Ryan, La'Shaun, various relatives and neighbors, the police chief, the mayor and the landlord. He does not quote the father, Jean Pierre. That's not because Pierre is unavailable. After all, the police talked to him. So it's interesting that the narrative of this whole event is being cobbled together without the input of one of the major players in the drama - the dad. In an article that spends considerable time discussing family activities and what happened just before Armstrong took the lives of herself and three children, it would seem that Pierre would have a lot to offer. But given the fact that there's no boilerplate statement to the effect that "attempts to contact Pierre" were unsuccessful" or that "phone calls weren't returned," it's beginning to look like the reporter didn't even try. He does include this quotation from Armstrong's aunt:
"She"s a good mother,' Ms. Gilliam said. "Just because she drove a car...' Her voice trailed off. Then she said, "Nobody knows what my niece went through.'I'm sure we'll find out in the upcoming days. In the meantime articles like this one seek to exonerate Armstrong on the basis of literally no information (WNYT, 4/14/11). The article speculates that, although there's no evidence of mental illness on Armstrong's part, she might have been mentally ill and she might have had post-partum depression. So it quotes a psychologist about what might have happened if Armstrong had a mental illness that was post-partum depression or psychosis. All of that is of course true. Countless things might have happened. But when journalists engage not only in rank speculation, but in speculating about speculation, you know there's an agenda other than reporting the facts about a terrible tragedy. And since the second piece ignores the dad too, I'd say it's trying to get readers to forgive Armstrong her awful deed rather than condemn her for it. As with the NYT article, Pierre is probably the person best situated to throw light on Armstrong's state of mind, but again, he's silenced. I have no desire to cast aspersions on anyone who is truly mentally ill. If Armstrong were incapable of understanding what she was doing, then she has my ready forgiveness. So far, though, all signs point to her being in full possession of her faculties. The point being that, if a father had snatched four children from under the nose of their mother and driven them and himself into a cold watery grave, because he was upset that she had had an affair, would newspaper articles and radio blogs be so eager to absolve him of wrongdoing that they refused to interview the mom? I think the question answers itself. I've written plenty about a culture that clings to the archaic notion that mothers can do nothing wrong and fathers can do nothing right. The press coverage so far of this terrible incident is yet one more instance of exactly that. And until that culture changes, mothers will still do the lion's share of childcare and fathers will be marginalized in the lives of their children.
"After he was released from the criminal trial, he was released from jail," says Wildeveld. "He went home and CPS showed up at his door and told him there was an active CPS case and he wasn't allowed to reside in his home."That would be bad enough, but there's more. CPS wants to terminate Fakoya's parental rights based on the death of his roommate's child. Fakoya, it seems has two children of his own who've been in the care of their mother since his arrest in 2008. Dissatisfied by their failures in criminal court, Las Vegas prosecutors have now intervened in the family court to prevent Fakoya's having any contact with his own children and to in fact terminate his rights altogether. And here's where that old familiar Catch-22 comes in. CPS is demanding that Fakoya take a child abuse class, of which one graduation requirement is... can you guess? That's right, an admission of guilt. So, he's been found not guilty by the jury, one of whose members says the child's death was not Fakoya's fault. That's enough to acquit him of criminal liability, but if he ever wants to see his kids again, he has to admit to something he and at least 12 other people, say he didn't do. What's left unsaid is whether CPS and prosecutors would drop their efforts to terminate his rights if he were to admit guilt. After all, in a sense it's as much a Catch-22 for them as it is for him. Their line runs something like this: "Continue to claim innocence and we'll take your kids from you; admit that you're responsible for the death of a child and you can keep them." Needless to say, that's an awkward stance for them to maintain. Meanwhile, Fakoya has exhausted his financial reserves. Wildeveld says he can't pay her fees, so he'll have a court-appointed lawyer to try to keep his kids. Fakoya's not a hard case; he says he'll gladly take the class, but without the requirement that he admit guilt. That's not good enough for prosecutors and CPS for whom nothing but moral abasement and kowtowing to their authority will be good enough. Now, theoretically, a mere finding of 'not guilty' in a murder case may not be enough to prove that a person is a fit parent. Murder is an intentional act and acquittal may mean nothing more than that the accused didn't kill someone on purpose. And that's far from enough to show that he/she is qualified to be a parent. After all, CPS rightly takes children from parents every day based only on neglect. But in this case, the child's death was not due to any failure on Fakoya's part. That's what Hale Benton says, at any rate. So at this point, prosecutors and CPS look to be acting punitively. And there's another issue that no one has brought up. Fakoya is married. His wife is the mother of his two children. So, what if prosecutors and CPS succeed in their mission to deprive Fakoya of his kids? Well, he obviously can't live with his wife or have much contact with her. So, in addition to trying to take his children, they're apparently trying to take his marriage as well. If they succeed at that though, it'll be because they terminated his parental rights which in all probability means he won't be required to pay child support. That in turn means that his children not only won't have a father, they'll live on the earnings of their single mother alone, without the support of her ex. In short, the ramifications of the actions of prosecutors and CPS go far beyond their dogged pursuit of an innocent man, bad as that is by itself. 'Tis a tangled web indeed. But it's one that could be untangled easily by prosecutors and CPS seeing sense and letting Victor Fakoya go home to his wife and kids.
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that parents use to undermine and interfere with a child's relationship with his or her other parent. This often but not always happens when parents are engaged in a custody battle over the children. There is no one definitive set of behaviors that constitute parental alienation but research with both parents and children has revealed a core set of 17 primary parental alienation strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. Taken together, these 17 parental alienation strategies work to create psychological distance between the child and the targeted parent such that the relationship becomes conflict ridden and eventually non-existent, as the child is empowered to cut that parent off completely. Each of these strategies serve to A) further the child's cohesion and alignment with the alienating parent; B) create psychological distance between the child and the targeted parent; C) intensify the targeted parent's anger and hurt over the child's behavior; and D) incite conflict between the child and the targeted parent should the targeted parent challenge or react to the child's behavior. Parents who try to alienate their child from his or her other parent convey a three-part message to the child: (1) I am the only parent who loves you and you need me to feel good about yourself, (2) the other parent is dangerous and unavailable, and (3) pursuing a relationship with that parent jeopardizes your relationship with me. Children who succumb to the pressure and ally themselves with one parent against the other often exhibit a set of behaviors that have become known as parental alienation syndrome: (1) The first manifestation is a campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. The child becomes obsessed with hatred of the targeted parent (in the absence of actual abuse or neglect that would explain such negative attitudes). (2) Weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the depreciation of the targeted parent. The objections made in the campaign of denigration are often not of the magnitude that would lead a child to hate a parent, such as slurping soup or serving spicy food. (3) Lack of ambivalence about the alienating parent. The child expresses no ambivalence about the alienating parent, demonstrating an automatic, reflexive, idealized support of him or her. (4) The child strongly asserts that the decision to reject the other parent is her own. This is what is known as the "Independent Thinker" phenomenon. (5) Absence of guilt about the treatment of the targeted parent. Alienated children will make statements such as, "He doesn't deserve to see me." (6) Reflexive support for the alienating parent in the parental conflict. There is no willingness or attempt to be impartial when faced with inter-parental conflicts. (7) Use of borrowed scenarios. These children often make accusations towards the targeted parent that utilize phrases and ideas adopted wholesale from the alienating parent. And, finally, (8) The hatred of the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family. Not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so too are his/her entire family. Formerly beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are suddenly avoided and rejected. When children exhibit these 8 behaviors the most likely explanation is the manipulation of the favored parent. Once children exhibit these behaviors much of the damage is done. Prevention is critical as it is easier to stop children from becoming alienated than it is to undo the alienation once the children have adopted false ideas and feelings about the rejected parent. For this reason, parents who are concerned about the use of alienation strategies on the part of the other parent should become educated as quickly as possible about different options for responding to parental alienation. Resources for targeted parents are available at www.amyjlbaker.com.
Giuseppe died in 1987, at the age of 95. She said she had seen him every day. "It was just a joy to me to sit next to him and watch TV,' she said.But... Throughout her life there were tantalizing suggestions that Viola might not be her dad. That's because her mother may or may not have had a brief affair with a Dr. Sebastiano Raeli in Rome before coming to the United States. It was only eight months later that little Nina was born. And ever after, a strange but persistent connection to Raeli existed between him and Nina, him and Giuseppe and him and her mother. It was a connection that no one wanted to discuss, but brought floods of tears whenever the subject came up. Now, Giuseppe Viola was an illiterate laborer - a fine father, but poor. Dr. Raeli however was a different story. Over the years he became somewhat of a hotel magnate, amassing nine properties in Rome. When he died, he and his wife left it all - some $100 million worth - to an Italian university. But Italian law forbids such a transfer if the deceased had one or more children. Half of his estate must go to the offspring and not surprisingly, it is that $50 million that Nina Montepagani wants. She filed suit some years ago in Italy, but the suit was dismissed. The Raelis said they had no children, Nina was born while Giuseppe was married and Nina's birth certificate says that Giuseppe Viola is her father. That creates the presumption of paternity in New York that the Italian court is required to honor. End of story, right? Wrong. Nina Montepagani has sued the State of New York to remove Giuseppe Viola's name from her birth certificate. Exactly what effect that would have on the Italian court, I have no idea. After all, the presumption of paternity arises less from the birth certificate than from the fact that the birth occurred while Giuseppe and Anna (Nina's mother) were married, and that is an undeniable fact. Still, it's impossible to ignore the fact that, as in all cases of potential paternity fraud, there's now a simple solution - a solution that didn't exist back in 1952 - DNA testing. If you're Nina Montepagani, it must seem a trifle odd that, with the answer to the vital question of paternity within easy reach, courts should rely on a legal fiction that has no legitimate place in 21st century jurisprudence. Indeed, with $50 million on the line, I'd guess it's more than just a trifle odd. And, although most men who face the same perversity of family law in paternity fraud cases don't have that much money riding on the outcome, they do have real relationships with real children and real mothers at stake. So in some way, Nina Montepagani can probably feel their pain. She's stuck in the same weird, anachronistic world they inhabit and surely it feels outrageous to her in the same way. We can all know the truth, but courts and laws won't let us. They prefer fiction. So maybe it wouldn't be so odd after all if New York changed its presumption of paternity not because of a wronged father but because of his daughter, and not because of the loss of a child but because of money. Stranger things have happened - in life and in fiction. Thanks to Jim for the heads-up.
When asked for a description of the girlfriend, the caller said, "It's Crystal Mangum. THE Crystal Mangum." He then added, "I told him she was trouble from the beginning."That simple truth is one that many people could have recognized years ago. If they had, much embarrassment and much torment would have been avoided. Daye died, perhaps ironically, at Duke University Hospital. The silence on campus as he did was deafening. Meanwhile, remember Maryanne Godboldo, the Detroit single mother who made the mistake of using her own judgment about whether to give a certain psychotropic drug to her 13-year-old daughter? That drove the local CPS to get an ex parte court order to turn over the girl. Godboldo refused, the police were called, an altercation ensued and the girl was taken by CPS to a psychiatric facility where, two weeks later she was reported to be doing well having still not received the medication that was the cause of her being taken in the first place. I opined at the time that that, plus CPS's refusal to hand the girl over to her father, strongly indicated that the whole thing looked less like concern for the girl and more like rage on the part of the state at being thwarted in the exercise of its power by the likes of a mere parent. Well, now this articletells us that it wasn't just the police that showed up at Godboldo's door, it was the SWAT team complete with a tank for what purpose I can only guess (Daily Mail, 4/15/11). Just picture it, a single mother inside her apartment with her young daughter who's having some mental/emotional difficulties, while outside there are a multitude of armed SWAT team members and a tank. You can always gauge how much you've affronted the state by the level of its response to the affront. Given that, I'd say they perceive Godboldo's action as a serious threat. And maybe that tells us something important about how the state perceives its interest in intervening in family life and particularly in parenting decisions. So you think you know what's best for your child, you think you have autonomy in the matter, you think those Supreme Court cases saying the state can't interfere in the parenting decisions of a fit parent actually mean something. Well think again. And that knock on your door? It's not UPS.
The 20-month-old girls were born in Mumbai to an Indian woman who carried eggs from an anonymous donor impregnated with sperm from one of the Melbourne men.
The couple went to the Family Court seeking full parental status for the non-genetic male partner.And that has been granted, presumably on the basis of his hands-on fatherhood. As the judge said at trial,
"As a matter of law, the word 'parent' tends to suggest some biological connection, but ... biology does not really matter; it is all about parental responsibility."Hmm. I know he was speaking just about the particular case, but biology matters in family law in all sorts of ways. Indeed, in Australia as well as in many other places, maternal biology alone is sufficient to confer parental rights. Fathers, particularly unmarried ones aren't so fortunate. In their case, in many jurisdictions, the judge is correct. And of course biology was vitally important to at least one of the men in the case. After all, gay men and lesbian women adopt children all the time, but that's not what the Australian pair did. They went to a lot more trouble and expense for one reason - to ensure that the DNA of one of the men was present in the children. To them, biology was important, whatever the judge thinks about it. Then of course there's the biological mother. She's apparently agreed to stay out of the family, but what if she changed her mind? In England only last year, a gay man who provided sperm for two lesbian partners to conceive a child ended up with equal parenting rights. Admittedly, they agreed that he should have a role in caring for the children, but it was his biological connection that encouraged him to do so. What would be the biological mothers' rights if she wanted to assert them? For that matter, what if the Indian woman decided she'd bonded with the kids during pregnancy - as she likely did - and wished to claim parental rights? Would the judge say that, in some mysterious way, her carrying them for nine months didn't constitute nurturing or responsible parenting? That would be a stretch. With a little effort, those twins could have four parents. Let's be clear; I'm all for the rights of gay men and lesbian women to be parents. What evidence we have indicates that they're every bit as capable and loving as straight parents, so I'm glad to support their parental rights. And I agree with the judge that if a man has acted the part of father, he should have the rights of one. But surrogacy is one of the most tangled webs there is and the possibilities are so varied that a single rule on parental rights would be hard to craft. Surrogacy usually includes at least one agreement among all the parties that the surrogate mom won't have any parental rights once the child is born. But, depending on the jurisdiction, those agreements may or may not be enforceable. That's part of the reason this case came out the way it did (Daily Mail, 4/12/11). In England, a married couple, Mr. and Ms. W, was desperate to have a child. They'd suffered no fewer than six late-stage miscarriages due to her surgery for uterine cancer. The pair despaired of ever having a child of their own. So they hit upon the idea of a surrogate. They found a willing woman, Miss N, who seems to have been all too willing to accept the £10,000 they offered for her medical and other expenses. The three agreed that she would give up the child and all her rights once the child was born. But six months into her pregnancy, Miss N changed her mind and, in violation of the agreement she'd signed, decided to keep the child for herself. And British courts backed her up. It seems that in England, the surrogacy agreement is not binding, at least on the surrogate. (I wonder what would have happened if she had turned the child over to the couple and they had refused to pay.) So with the agreement invalid, and the surrogate claiming parental rights a custody battle was inevitable. It lasted six months and Miss N prevailed. Why? Well, students of U.S. family law won't be surprised to learn that it's in large part because she'd kept and raised the child during the term of the custody dispute.
In January, in a rare case, Miss N was awarded custody after a judge deemed it was in the child"s best interests because there was a ‘clear attachment" between the mother and daughter.I should make it clear here that the judge didn't think much of any of the three. All seem to have lied under oath several times. And none of the three look like very promising parents. So there were competing claims about who could do the best job of parenting. But what seems clear is that Miss N kept the child and bonded with her and vice versa. That allowed the child's court-appointed guardian to testify in court about their good relationship. Had Miss N kept her promise for which she'd been paid so well, none of that would have happened. If that looks to you a lot like many U.S. adoption cases, you're right. In those cases, it's possession that seems to count most to courts. Possession leads to bonding which leads to custody. As I've written before, in those cases, if adoptive parents can just get possession of a child and keep it during the pendency of litigation (usually several years), then - voila! - it's theirs irrespective of the fact that it was all done in violation of the fathers' rights. The same is true in the W's case. Miss N had possession of the child and naturally the child has become attached to her. Again, never mind that she did so in violation of her agreement for which she'd already been given a hefty sum of money. I've likened a few U.S. adoption cases to child theft. This looks the same. Indeed, it's fascinating how similar the case is to so many others we've discussed. It even includes allegations by Miss N of domestic abuse by Mr. W against his wife - allegations that both Mr. and Mrs. W denied in court, even though they were disbelieved by the judge. In any case, I guess Ms. W now has some idea of what it's like to be a father in a custody case. You have your child taken from you (in this case by a surrogate) for no good cause and that taking is then used to justify your secondary status as parent. And just in case you think you have a chance, there are those allegations of DV to make sure you don't. Just to add insult to injury, the court also ordered Mr. W to pay child support in the sum of £568 per month. That's right, it's Mr. W who has to pay. They both agreed to hire the surrogate, but it's his sperm, his kid, don't you know. That of course brings us back full circle to the Australian judge's remark that "biology does not really matter." Oh. But to sum up the way the British courts have botched this whole case, I'll leave it to Mr. W.
She has taken away our baby and now she is taking our money. To me, that is completely wrong.Thanks to John for the second piece.
However, it is also an unfortunate truth that because they are incredibly easy to obtain, orders of protection are misused, often against men. And this false practice clogs the system unnecessarily, preventing true victims from having their cases thoroughly examined and depleting victim-assistance resources.She goes on to recite what most of us know - that TROs require little or no evidence of little or no harm to the "victim." A vague fear of future harm based on no objective threat is sufficient. And the consequences for the target of the TRO are draconian. He (it's usually a man) can be tossed out of his house, taken away from his kids and his belongings, and denied access to important information he needs to defend himself. Is he entirely innocent? Does he have no record of abuse? Are the allegations fabricated to gain the upper hand in a custody battle? All that is his tough luck. Mandarano recites the famous David Letterman case of 2005 in which a New Mexico woman got a judge to issue a TRO against the comedian whom she'd never met and who lived many states away. And she mentions a pithy little fact that so many overlook about that case - "the issuing judge stood by his ruling." What? How could that be? How could he defend an order that was so flagrantly wrong? The answer is simple - he complied with the law. It's an important point. Many people conclude that the judge was nuts to issue such an order. On the contrary, he did his job correctly; it was the law that was nuts. Mandarano hits all the high points about TROs. There are as many as three million of them issued each year in the United States. They're easy to get, tough to overturn, used as a tactic in custody cases, often baseless, but usually effective to establish who is the "primary parent." That last of course is one of the main reasons for their use in custody cases. TROs keep Dad out of his kids' lives for as long as six months and after that may restrict him to only supervised visitation for a longer time. All that can add up to persuasive evidence that Mom is the primary parent and therefore should be the custodial one post-divorce. But, in the eyes of the divorce establishment, there are other positives to wholesale issuance of TROs. They serve as bargaining chips that force dads to accept less in custody and more in spousal support; they line attorney's pockets; they drain the man's resources and place him on the defensive emotionally. Mandarano goes on:
Given the foregoing, this problem is certainly one that our judicial system should address and remedy.And that's where Mandarano goes off the rails a bit. Amazingly, she lays the failure of the legislative and judicial systems to remedy the misuse of TROs at the feet of men's and fathers' rights organizations. Why? We're too strident, that's why. We use "vitriolic language" and "bombastic rhetoric." Well, I agree that websites supporting men's and fathers' rights often use intemperate language. They also sometimes play fast and loose with facts. I approve of neither and always try to be fact and logic-based and to avoid inflammatory words. I do that because I think it's the right way to persuade people who haven't already made up their minds about the subjects discussed on this site. But the notion that state legislatures would have done the right thing by now if MRAs and FRAs had just played more nicely is (a) unsupported by any evidence (and Mandarano offers none), (b) highly unlikely and (c) contradicted by the last 40 years of feminism that have seen, among many other things, rape laws altered drastically to the tune of feminists singing "all men are rapists." If vitriolic rhetoric is so counterproductive, how'd that happen? No, state legislatures' failure to change TRO laws isn't because those arguing for gender equality in family courts sometimes heat their rhetoric to the boiling point. Those laws remain because organizations that perceive a benefit from them threaten dire consequences if they do change. Those organizations include associations of family attorneys and feminist organizations that loudly proclaim their support for gender equality while opposing essentially every move toward parental equality in family courts. Still, Mandarano offers some good - and some not so good - advice about how to attack the TRO system. She again counsels toning down the rhetoric. I agree. The TRO situation is outrageous, but it's possible to convey outrage without alienating the person you're talking to. When MRA and FRA organizations lobby state legislature, they must assume that the people they're addressing have an open mind on the subject. They must address them in a calm voice using facts and logic to support their arguments. Most importantly, they must make clear to each legislator their understanding that evidence-based TROs are sometimes necessary to protect people who need protecting. Absent that clear message, they've lost their audience from the outset. On the other hand, Mandarano's call for studies to assess the extent of the problem is odd given the fact that she cited several such studies in her own article. Is there a need for more? Probably so, but activism against TROs doesn't need to wait for them to be done and published. Likewise, she encourages judges to sanction parties who perjure themselves. Again, I couldn't agree more, but my guess is that, if judges were going to do that, they'd have done so by now. Their refusal to punish perjurers has always been a mystery to me, but there it is, and I don't see it changing. One of Mandarano's good suggestions is one that's slipped my mind in the past, but no more. Targets of TROs issued on false or non-existent evidence can always sue their accusers. The common-law torts of false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, etc. are available and can dampen the enthusiasm of the false accuser. Also, they're tried in different courts than the custody case, so the typical family court prejudice against dads may not apply. All in all, Mandarano's piece is pretty good. It has its misconceptions, but the gist is right - TRO laws need to be changed for everyone's sake. Thanks to Edward for the heads-up.
A judge announced a plan Friday to get a Detroit girl back into the care of relatives and out of a state mental health facility after a dispute over her mother's refusal to keep giving her prescribed drugs.
Judge Lynne Pierce of the Wayne County Circuit Court Juvenile Division gave doctors representing the state and the family of the 13-year-old two weeks to work out a treatment plan for her...
"I am assuming the doctors will be able to reach a joint treatment program where (the teen) will be able to receive treatment in a home setting," Pierce said after a lengthy private meeting in her chambers with lawyers representing the state and the girl's parents, Godboldo and Mubarak Hakim...
Under Friday's order, the doctors representing the state and the girl's family were ordered to meet within a week to begin work on a treatment plan. The doctors are George Mellos, director of a state facility for mentally ill youths, and family physician Margaret Betts, who had been helping wean the girl from the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal.In other words, two sets of doctors will get together and agree on a plan for the girl's care to be followed while she's at home with her mother or another relative. So we're back to my original question, "why didn't this happen in the first place?" Would it have been so hard for CPS, instead of rushing to court for an ex parte order to take the girl from her parent and her home, to have told Godboldo that they thought she should give the girl Risperdal? When Mom disagreed, they could have gone to court and asked the same doctors who are now involved to come up with a plan for the girl's care. Simple. At least compared to what actually happened it's simple. No ex parte orders, no police, no SWAT team, no felony charges against the mother, no community outrage, no wrenching a child with psychiatric problems from her mother and home would have occurred. One court hearing - maybe two - would have solved the whole thing. Here's a wild guess on my part: that question - "why didn't this happen in the first place?" - will be the core of a civil suit filed against CPS by Godboldo. I've said it before; this is what so often happens when individuals confront state power - all hell breaks loose. And it seems to matter little what the simple, sensible thing to do might be. Even now, Godboldo doesn't have her daughter back. She's to stay with an aunt for the time being although no one seems to know why Mom doesn't have custody. What's she done wrong? Yes, there's an allegation that she discharged a pistol while the SWAT team was breaking down her door. That would be a serious issue if it happened and not to be taken lightly. But so far it's nothing more than an allegation and is presumed innocent. Other charges against her stem mostly from her assertion of her parental rights. My guess is that those will be dismissed soon enough. I've said it before: the breakdown of the family has opened the door to state intervention in what once were considered family matters and parental decisions. This case shows it about as well as any. A mother, along with her daughter's psychiatrist, decides how best to treat her daughter's mental condition. The state disagrees and takes the child by force, parental rights be damned. CPS was wrong about the medication, but the far greater wrong was its decision to rush to court without notice to the parent. But states give child welfare agencies those powers and, once given, you can count on them being used. 'Twas ever thus.
However, Dr. Saar also reiterated that the false abuse allegations by the grandparents resulted in Jon being alienated from his father, which resulted in Jon feeling emotions of self-blame that were psychologically damaging to him.Further,
Jon was coached by his grandparents into accusing his father of abusing him. The manipulation of this cognitively impaired child by his grandparents should be considered emotional abuse and should call into question the [grandparents"] ability to care for this child.Based on the continuing conflict between, on one hand, Melissa and Warren and the grandparents on the other, Jon's parents went to court to terminate the grandparent's visitation rights. The trial court denied the request but the Supreme Court overruled it and rendered judgment for the parents. So what we have is the assertion of rights by parties who aren't the child's parents, i.e. the grandparents. Opposing them are the child's biological mother and stepfather, i.e. a man with no biological connection to the child. In West Virginia, the only consideration in deciding the custodial rights of grandparents is the best interests of the child. And it was on that basis that the court decided that these particular grandparents should no longer associate with their grandson, not even with third-party supervision. The Supreme Court made its decision based on two factors only.
The particular facts of this case, including the vicious nature of the grandparents" actions to forestall Jon"s adoption proceedings, as well as their baseless pursuit of abuse allegations against Jon"s adoptive father, illustrate a relationship in constant conflict with that of Jon"s parents.When the court refers to the "particular facts of this case," it's saying that its opinion does not mean that false abuse allegations prohibit grandparent visitation rights as a matter of law. But what it does mean is that false allegations of child abuse can be used as a factor in the termination of those rights. Parental rights to children are more serious matters than those of grandparents and so we're still a long way from a ruling that any false allegation of abuse must result in a change of custodial rights. But where we are is the clear acknowledgement by the highest court in a state that false allegations of abuse can be damaging to the child caught between two loved relatives. Those allegations can be alienating and can cause psychological harm. As such, courts will in future consider them as factors militating against the parental rights of false accusers. That's well within established law; it's also well within established social science. As such, it should send a message to parents who might be inclined to make false allegations in order to achieve an advantage in custody decisions. If this case is any indication, false allegations of abuse made solely for the sake of gaining an advantage in custody cases will no longer be a free shot, devoid of adverse consequences for the accuser. For reasons I've never understood, courts have always been loath to punish these exercises in blatant perjury. Well, now they don't have to. Simple recognition that false allegations that tend to separate a child from a loving and fit parent themselves constitute a form of child abuse will go a long way toward better custody decisions and in the end fewer false allegations of abuse.
THIS BILL: Corrects an inequity in California law, known as double dipping, where the same stream of income is counted twice in a family law action -- once for purposes of valuing that income stream as a division of property, then again for spousal/partner support purposes when the spouse/partner receives the income in the future. Under this bill, family law courts would have to consider the impact of double counting of income when making a spousal/partner support order. NEED FOR THE BILL: Double dipping, or the double counting of income, occurs when divorcing couples have income-producing assets, such as a pension, annuity, or a small family business, which is community property. Such assets are to a great extent valued based on the income which the asset produces or which is expected to be produced in the future. A spouse/partner who wishes to keep the asset must purchase the other party"s share by paying that party one-half of the present value of the future stream of income. That same stream of income is often counted again for purposes of spousal/partner support. In other words, when the court determines each party"s ability to pay spousal/partner support, it will include the full stream of income which the other party has already purchased from the other party. Many believe that this is an inherently unfair situation which can result in the loss of a small businesses or a retired person being unable to rely on the pension he or she thought was owned free-and-clear of the other party"s claims. Many states, such as New York, have acted to prohibit such double counting. EXISTING LAW: There is little controlling California law on this topic, but the Supreme Court did approve of the practice, in dicta, in 1979. See In re Marriage of Epstein (1979) 24 Cal.3d 76. Appellate cases have also approved of double counting income in cases involving retirement accounts that were divided. See, e.g., In re Marriage of White (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 1022. In light of these cases, trial courts" hands are tied with respect to avoiding the inequities of double dipping. This demands a legislative solution. SOLUTION: Double counting is a complex issue with many experts having different opinions as to how best to fix it. This bill would avoid imposing a "one size fits all' approach. It would express the legislative intent that the inequity created by double dipping should be avoided, and provide discretion to the courts to deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis. This is done by adding a new provision to the 12 circumstances set forth in Family Code section 4320 that courts must consider when setting spousal/partner support: (n) The extent to which income for support was already capitalized and paid to the other spouse in the division of community property, to avoid double counting the income when the result would be inequitable, based on all of the circumstances presented.
But Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) raised concerns about this bill's possible effect on child support.
Molly Olson, founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility, said the intent of the bill is to only address parenting time.
However, Michael Dittberner, legislative chair of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said that until a few years ago, custody and child support were linked. He said the proposed 45-plus percent parenting time could change the new child support formulas. "I think there was an intent to effect child support."Well, the truth of the matter is that, if it's enacted into law, the bill should have an impact on child support. That only makes sense. The bill's presumption is for each parent to get at least 45.1% parenting time with the child. That's compared to 30% or less under current custody arrangements that are usually ordered. So increased parenting time by Dad should lower child support levels for the good and sufficient reason that, because the child spends more time with him, his costs go up while hers go down. So it's interesting that that's what opponents are hanging their hats on. To paraphrase their opposition, "We're against dads having equal contact with their children because moms might not get as much money." That's their position even though, as I showed earlier, more time with Dad should mean lower support levels. But just because we're dealing with what they did say, let's not forget what they didn't say. What they didn't say is anything about child abuse or spousal abuse or domestic violence or bad dads or brutal dads or careless dads. I don't know why that is. Maybe they're keeping their powder dry or maybe the emperor's clothes are wearing a bit thin. Usually the anti-dad crowd makes those misleading claims as mechanically as flipping a switch. So I've got to wonder why they're not singing the same sad old tune. Could it be that legislatures have had enough of the false claims that dads - but not moms - hurt their kids? Could it be that elected officials now know the truth - that moms do twice the abuse and neglect of children that dads do and about 75% more of the child homicide? After all, they'd have to do nothing more than go to the website for the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families to find out the up-to-date facts. I'd like to think so, but I've got my doubts. Still, the argument that children should continue to lose their dads via divorce because if they didn't, Mom wouldn't get paid as much is a pretty remarkable stance to take. Let's just say I'm glad it's them making the argument and not me. Interestingly, it vaguely echoes what North Dakota state senators gave as their reason for voting down that state's recent equally-shared parenting bill. It seems that, shortly before the vote, they were deluged with calls from family court lawyers and judges saying the bill would make custody decisions more complicated. I've got my doubts about that; it would seem to have made them easier since the presumption would have applied in most cases. But it was interesting that, as in Minnesota, the objection was administrative, not substantive. Again, gone were the complaints by feminist groups about domestic violence . They were replaced by an altogether new and entirely uninspiring plea that judges and family lawyers shouldn't be inconvenienced. This is thin gruel indeed. The old DV claims, however wrong, at least offered a compelling drama. What'll they come up with next? Maybe "we can't let dads have access to their children because we'd have to reword the standard order forms." Whatever the case, it's beginning to look like the anti-dad forces are running out of excuses to keep children from having fully-involved fathers in their lives.
He said, "It is more than disconcerting to think that if Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive…' Judge Stong was determined that even if it is Campione that gets locked up, Canadians would know that the real villain, morally speaking, is Leo Campione, the father of the dead girls (even though his alleged abusiveness was entirely based on his wife"s allegations and never proved), and it is actually the "discarded' Elaine Campione who is the victim.
Judge Stong felt such personal animus against the grieving father that he wanted to deny Mr. Campione and his parents their opportunity to read a victim-impact statement, standard practice even with mandatory- sentencing cases. He only relented under strong pressure from the prosecutor, who reminded the judge that the murdered girls had been "an extremely important part of [Mr. Campione's] life.'That was last year, so why do I bring it up now? Because of its striking similarity to the Lashanda Armstrong case. Armstrong of course is the New York woman who drove herself and her four children into the Hudson River telling them all that if she was going to die then they must die as well. The oldest, ten-year-old La'Shaun was the only one to manage to get free. He says his mother attempted to hold all the children in the car as it sank into the 45-degree water, but he squirmed away and swam to safety. So that's one major difference between the Armstrong and Campione cases; Armstrong is no longer alive. But the headlong dash to find the children's father responsible for their deaths is essentially identical. The children's eyes had barely closed before news accounts breathlessly reported that Armstrong and Jean Pierre, father of the three dead children, but not of La'Shaun, had argued about his "cheating." Since then we've been told that he had been charged with child neglect when a toddler under his care was found wandering unattended. The fact that he was never convicted or punished for the incident came out only later. At the time of the incident no one paused to ask what it might mean to "cheat" on a person to whom you're not married and who doesn't allow you to live with her and seeks to keep you out of the lives of your children as Armstrong did to Pierre. But to rational beings, cheating, even if it occurred, doesn't justify the intentional killing of small children. The mere fact that I have to say that speaks volumes about the type of culture we live in. But read the articles about the Armstrong killings and Barbara Kay's piece about the inexcusable behavior of Judge Stong in the Campione murders and it's hard to deny that, when mothers kill their children, people reflexively look for a father to blame. That's the nut of this article (Salon.com, 4/27/11). It's at pains to remind us that it was Armstrong, not Pierre, who killed the kids. Why did we have to be told? Because, with all the vilification of the dad, it might be hard to keep the fact in mind. It also reminds us that Pierre is one of the victims. He's not dead, but he's still a father whose three little children were killed by their mother. Anyone with an ounce of sensitivity would empathize with Pierre who's endured one of the most terrible shocks imaginable. But those folks seem to be in short supply among the stampede to find something - anything - with which to blame the dad for something he objectively did not do.
"He's in shock that his children died," said the lawyer, Stephen J. Powers. "He's not looking to accuse anybody of anything but everybody wants to put the blame on him."That's not unusual.
"It's really good to have someone to blame," said Dr. Philip R. Muskin, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. "Appropriately or not, having someone to blame gives us an answer, and we like answers."
A tendency to blame the victim is not unheard of, said psychologist David Palmiter, public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association
"In this case, one of the victims is the living spouse," Palmiter said. "His children were killed."All of that is sensible enough - blatantly unfair to Pierre, but at least understandable - except for one thing. When the sexes are reversed, do people blame the mother? When a father takes the life of a child, do the media and assorted opiners and hangers-on turn their accusing fingers towards her? If the do, I've never seen it. Maybe someone can remind us of a single instance in which that happened. That's the first problem with the opinions of the "experts" in this case. They phrase their opinions in gender-neutral ways, but the phenomenon they describe is anything but that. The simple fact is that fathers receive blame from the talking heads while mothers receive understanding. Until the experts notice that glaring fact, their opinions will continue to have only limited utility. The second problem is that these same experts who dispassionately describe people's tendency to look for a scapegoat, do precisely that themselves.
However, the experts do not find Pierre blameless. If his relationship with Armstrong had been healthy, they said, she probably would have had one less stress factor. In addition, said Gerald Mallon, a professor at Hunter College's School of Social Work, "a good partner might have picked out the signs of mental illness."Yes, she had stress in her life, just like 100% of all other adults - those who drown their helpless children and those who don't. And of course there's the "mental illness" angle that Mallon and many other commenters take for granted. The problem with that is that, apart from the incident itself, there's not the least evidence that Armstrong was mentally ill. One lay person one time said Armstrong seemed to be acting in a "paranoid" way. Beyond that single statement, there's nothing. There has been no report of behavior that would lead anyone to believe that Armstrong didn't appreciate the wrongness of what she was doing. She hadn't consulted a mental health expert, wasn't on medication and seemed to be living a normal, if conflicted, life. Meanwhile, the same "experts" seem not to know basic facts about the case or others to which they compare it. One suggests that Pierre and Armstrong were married. They weren't. Another believes that the husband of Andrea Yates didn't know she was mentally ill, when in fact he had been deeply involved in her treatment for months before she killed their five children. The vilification of Jean Pierre is disgraceful. Yes, it seems that the man must plead guilty to being a flawed human being. Yes, his partner did what she could to keep him out of his children's lives and yes, he seems to have had sex with at least one woman other than Armstrong. For all that, let him prostrate himself at our feet don a hair shirt and cry "Mea culpa!" But let us be clear about two things. First, Jean Pierre is no worse than countless people, male and female, and he's better than many. More importantly, nothing he's said, done, or left undone, justifies the intentional killing of three small children. Nothing. Blame for that rests at the feet of one person and one person only - Lashanda Armstrong. Until we get that straight, this society will be in no position to pretend that we treat the sexes equally. Until we stop reserving our condemnation for men and our forgiveness for women, the sexes will not be equal. That's a wrong that hurts everyone.